Oak Ridges Moraine: Aggregate Extraction

What is an aggregate?


Aggregates refer to sand, gravel and stone that are the primary raw materials used in construction of private and public infrastructure such as road ways, drainage systems, buildings and homes.

Why Extract Aggregates on the Oak Ridges Moraine?

The ORM is an ideal location for aggregate extraction because of how the glacial melt water deposited the 0-200 m of quaternary sediment (Gerber, Howard, 2002).  As the glaciers melted, sediment that was previously trapped in the ice was transported by the glacial rivers.  When river velocity changes, the specific carrying capacity of the river to carry sediment changes as well.  At specific velocities, only one particular size of sediment will be deposited;therefore, the sediment is sorted by size along the banks of the glacial river. This sorting of sediment is specifically important for aggregate extraction because it allows companies to quickly and inexpensively extract aggregate from the land (Al-Huail, Neelamani, 2011).  In Southern Ontario there are 3729 active licences on private land and 2329 permits on crown land that allow  aggregate companies to mine these resources.


This is an image of an aggregate extraction operation on the Oak Ridges Moraine


Are there benefits to Aggregate extraction?

There are several social benefits to having aggregate companies operate in Southern Ontario.  The extraction of aggregates provides considerable benefits to the local and provincial economy such as inexpensive supplies to build needed infrastructure, and considerable revenue in the form of government taxes.

As the population in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) grows to an expected 6.5 million in 2021, new infrastructure is required.

I argue that the aggregate extractions on the ORM has a direct relationship with the demand for the aggregate product in the GTA region.  Not only is the resource inexpensive to extract, as mentioned earlier, but the costs of transportation will remain low due to the proximity to the market.

This graphic, demonstrates the amount of aggregate needed for different types of infrastructure.


The province continues to encourages development due to the significant revenue they will earned through a variety of taxes.

Firstly, Ontario’s mining tax accrues 10% of profit made by an aggregate company or mining company (Ministry of Finance, 2015).

Further, when the development, made possible by aggregate extraction, creates large subdivisions and encourages the expansion of the GTA, the government profits again.  As more people move into the area, the increased population paying personal income taxes will generate even more tax revenue while it is believed that only minimal increases to government services will be required to administrate the process.


Farmland is quickly vanishing and being replaced with housing in the GTA

Thirdly, the government also benefits from these developments through property taxes.  The property tax is based on an estimated value of the land.  When an open field or agricultural land is developed into a subdivision, the value of the allotted land is significantly increased (Ministry of Finance, 2015).  Thus, the government receives more funds for the same plot of land.


Many business plans within the aggregate sector heavily weight the short term costs and benefits of new development, without concern for long term costs.  I believe that the land should be left in its natural state, and aggregate companies should be held further accountable for the land from which they extract.  Keep following this series to find out why!

Make sure to check out earlier posts in this series,by checking out the Oak Ridges Moraine Category of my blog!


Work Cited

Al-Hulail, F., Neelamani, S. (2011). The Variation of Total Suspended Sediments Due to the Change in Sea Water Depth, Tidal Phase and Elevation of Sea Water Sample Collection in Khor Sabiya Inlet of the Arabian Gulf, Kuwait. Journal of Coastal Research. (6). p. 369-374.

Dashwood, H. (2007). Canadian Mining Companies and Corporate Social Responsibility: Weighing the Impact of Global Norms. Canadian Journal of Political Science. 40(1). 129-16.

Gerber, R., Howard, K. (2002). Hydrology of the Oak Ridges Moraine aquifer system: implications for protection and management from Duffins Creek watershed.  Journal of Earth Sciences. 39(9). p. 1333-1384.

Healey, S. (2010). Putting the “stone” back in capstone: concrete solutions for reducing mineral aggregate consumption in Ontario. Simon Fraser University.

Howard, K., et Al. (1995). The Oak Ridges Moraine of Southern Ontario: A ground water resource at risk. Journal of the geological association of Canada. 22(3). p. 101-120.

Ministry of Natural Resources. (2009). Aggregate Resources Act. Government of Ontario <http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90a08>

Ministry of Finance. (2015). Ontario Mining Tax. Government of Ontario  <http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/tax/mining/index.html>


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